Termites not only raid people’s homes, but also those of other happy termite couples.
Homosexuality is known as an “evolutionary paradox” because it can’t produce offspring. So why does it happen? Biologists at Kyoto University in Japan have now uncovered one explanation for the behavior — at least in termites.
When male termites are single, and no female mates can be found, the guys tend to
form homosexual couples, in order to survive. A new study by Kyoto University scientists, in Japan, confirms this unusual behavior. Their study used subjects from Japanese termite species, that are genetically the same or similar to those found in the United States.(Reticulitermes speratus, Coptotermes formosanus).
These homosexual pairings may give maleJapanese termites an evolutionary edge, according to new research. Scientists found that when female mates are lacking, male termites will pair up and nest together. Thesesame-sex pairswill even take over a heterosexual couple’s nest, killing the resident male (King) so that one member of the male-male pair can mate with the female (Queen), the researchers said.
Though pairing with another male is not the best option, as only one of the termites can mate once a female is found, the researchers noted that the behavior does give single termites a better chance at survival.
In the study, published in Animal Behavior, the researchers reported that homosexual male termites built nests together, just as with heterosexual couples. “Male termites aren’t able to survive on their own, but those that make nests with another male survived for much longer,” states Mizumoto. “This was especially beneficial in situations when searching for females raises the risk of being preyed upon.
“It’s clear thatmale-male pairing is a strategy for survival – a safety in numbers or “selfish herd” approach that works because a predator can’t catch two prey at the same time.
Scientists previously thought homosexual pairings of invertebrates like insects were the result of misrecognition of males as females. However, in the new study, researchers at Kyoto University found that the male termites in same-sex pairings did not act as if they had mistaken their partner as female.
Scientists recently discovered that termite queens could produce new queens without mating with the king. The queens still produce workers and soldiers the traditional way. These new discoveries seem to indicate that the queen is able to control the genetic makeup of the colony. By producing new queens without mating, the queen reduces the chance of inbreeding.
First there was one; then there were two – and before long there were billions of them. Invasive ants have managed to form super-colonies that have the potential to grow indefinitely.
Ants normally form colonies with only one nest and one queen. But for 15-20 of the world’s 12,643 known ant species, this isn’t enough: they form super-colonies with multiple nests and many queens. This enables them to spread over large areas and wipe out other ant species.
According to Jes Søe Pedersen, of the Department of Biology, at the University of Copenhagen. “It looks as if the ants defy evolution, and we’re eager to figure out how that’s even possible,” “We have notrouble with understanding how evolution has created the classic ant colony,”says Pedersen. “The workers work for their sisters – new queens – and their brothers – males. It gets a bit trickier to understand when the workers work for other ants’ sisters and brothers, as is done in super-colonies. According to the laws of evolution, you only need to help out your relatives. But we’re seeing ant colonies so big that all the ants cannot possibly be related. So why are they helping one another? That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” he says.
The ant species that formed this massive super-colony originates from Argentina. It has spread to Europe, the USA, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Hawaii from a super-colony that came from South America more than 100 years ago, partly via ship cargo.
The largest Argentine Ant super-colony in the world was discovered in 2000 in Southern Europe. The size of this super-colony is amazing. Spread over 4000 miles near the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines, it actually consists of two super-colonies, with 33 populations consisting of millions of queens and billions of workers. They’re working together to create this gigantic society covering a larger distance than many of the world’s countries.
Although the Argentine Ant poses no risk to humans, it can soon become a nuisance when suddenly there is an unprecedented increase in ants in the garden and infesting the house.
In Southern California, the Argentine ant is the No. 1 pest that extermination companies are hired to get rid of, UCSD researchers say. They have displaced more than 50 species of native ants, some ten times their size, to establish a “super-colony” that stretches from San Diego almost to the Oregon border.
What is also important, is to understand that the dominance of these ants can cause a ripple effect in the ecosystem as they eliminate other native ant species as well as other insects. This alters the food base for species further up in the food chain.
One big family
According to scientists, whenever ants from the main European and Californian super-colonies and those from the largest colony in Japan came into contact, they acted as if they were old friends.
These ants rubbed antennae with one another and never became aggressive or tried to avoid one another.
In short, they acted as if they all belonged to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans.
Red Imported Fire Antscausing havoc in the U.S. The red imported fire ant is also native to South America and has been accidentally introduced in Australia, New Zealand, several Asian and Caribbean countries and the United States.
Red imported fire ants are dominant in their chosen areas of infestation and live in a wide variety of habitats. They can be found in: rain forests, in disturbed areas, deserts, grasslands, alongside roads and buildings, and in electrical equipment.
In the US, the red American fire ant has had an iron grip on the country since the 1930s. This ant is also imported from Argentina, but unlike the Argentine Ant, it’s nasty sting is painful and sometimes hazardous to animals and humans alike. It’s sting is equivalent to that of a bee with the same dangers involved.
Since a super-colony can contain billions of these miniscule creatures within a relatively small area, great efforts are being made to fight them.
According to researchers, “Trying to fight the red imported fire ant on a large scale is hopeless. It’s costing the US billions of dollars every year to fight this ant, to compensate for losses of crops and to provide medication for animals and for people who have been stung.
Other ants that have formed Super-Colonies:
Ethopia, Africa – The infamous ant species, Lepisiota canescens, is demonstrating the behavior needed for super-colony formation and global domination.
Australia, Christmas Island, Indonesia – The Yellow Crazy Ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes, is an extremely successful and resourceful species, and considered to be one of the worst invasive species on earth. When disturbed they move around in a frantic motion, hence the name ‘crazy’ ants. They are aggressive and competitive to other ants and insects and this enables them
to out‐compete and displace other species and dominate food resources. These ants have spread through tropical and sub‐tropical zones of much of the world by ‘hitching’ rides with human produce and materials.
What will happen when all of these super-colonies meet?
That gopher that’s been living in your front yard for the last 2 years, now considers himself part of the family. Just like creepy Cousin Earle, that came to visit two Christmases ago and is now living in the basement, your gopher is entrenched and living rent free in your yard. So, what do you give your gopher this Christmas? The same thing that you give Cousin Earle. The boot!
Pocket gophers live solitary lives in underground tunnel systems (sound like Cousin Earle in the basement?), which they vigorously defend. They prefer loosely compacted or sandy soil for easy excavation. Their systems are typically made up of shallow feeding tunnels that run downward into deep nesting tunnel systems that can be several feet underneath the shallow systems. The average shallow tunnel depth is between 6-12 inches.
Gophers can heave up large amounts of soil in random mounding patterns, each forming a crescent shaped mound. (Mole mounds are conical in shape and form almost linear directions in their digging patterns.) Gophers will forage above ground very near the tunnel opening for food and nesting material, just like creepy Cousin Earle, who makes his way up the stairs from the basement to raid the fridge. They have been known to create up to 70 mounds a month destroying gardens and lawns alike.
Gophers do not go dormant or hibernate, but they will take prolonged rest periods when temperatures or humidity reach uncomfortable extremes, and will go to deep nesting runway systems and live off stored food caches. Sounds like Cousin Earle again.
The most frustrating thing about gophers (and Cousin Earle), besides their year-round, daytime and nocturnal activity, is their ability to thwart your most creative and diligent eviction tactics.
Gopher resistant plants, natural predators, smelly repellent concoctions, Juicy Fruit gum, noise makers and vibrators, gas and smoke bombs, water boarding (tunnel flooding) and poisons, can all be part of an eviction program. But the essential action you must take is consistent attention. No matter what method you decide upon, it is important to follow through, keep vigilant and act immediately when activity is observed.
When is it time tohire a professional exterminator? When your best efforts have failed, and all you want for Christmas is your beautiful yard and garden back!
Does your TV seem to be bugged? How about that bug in your computer, not to mention, your video games. Is it really an electronic misfire, a phantom glitch or are they really, truly BUGGED?
Did you know that the cockroach is the “Computer Geek” of the insect world? Most cockroaches prefer to congregate and lay their eggs in places that are dark, secluded, warm and close to sources of food and water. Unfortunately, the interiors of many electronic appliances, including TVs, radios, clocks, cable boxes, video game consoles and computers, fit that description, and cockroach infestations of these kinds of appliances and devices are common.
Infested electronics are a common avenue by which roaches travel from one home to another. or a warehouse to your home. Cockroaches maybe introduced into a home through used electronics or kitchen appliances that have come from an infested area and you may transport roaches to a new location, when you move, by carrying infested items with you. Even new electronics and appliances can be infested if they come from stores or warehouses with insect problems. Even infested delivery vehicles have been known to deliver more than just that new TV or game console.
New electronics are expensive and getting a “good deal” on “gently used” or “like new” electronics or appliances may bring you more than the ultimate satisfaction. They may bring you the beginning of the worst infestation of roaches your world has ever seen. Your dreams may be shattered by malfunctions and glitches, and at worst, the death of that long sought after dream machine.
So, what can you do to keep your electronics, appliances and your living spaces, roach free? Here’s what the experts recommend:
Inspect and detect. Anything you bring into your living area should be thoroughly inspected for hidden invaders. This includes new, store boxed and packaged, devices and products. If not in the device itself, roaches can hide out in the packaging. They can hitch rides from warehouses, stores and delivery trucks. Be especially vigilant when bringing home that “good deal” from garage sales and online sales sites.
Keep it clean. Maintain good sanitation practices. Don’t leave food (last week’s pizza or yesterday’s fries and potato chips) sitting around your computer work areas or your game consoles. Wipe up spilt drinks and don’t let unfinished beverages accumulate around your electronics. Don’t feed the Bugs!
Blow’m out and Suck’m up! Vacuuming cockroaches and egg cases is a simple non-toxic control method. Be sure to frequently use your can of Air, to remove dust and other creepy crawlies from inside computers and appliances.
Trap’Em. Under certain conditions, sticky traps can be used to control cockroaches. Not a good idea to put them inside any device, but placing them where roaches can walk across them (and get stuck) is desirable.
Heat’m or Freeze’m. They do not develop or reproduce when temperatures are too cold (below 45° F) or too hot
above 115° F). If a small item can be wrapped in plastic and subjected to freezing, it can be placed in a freezer for several hours (or overnight) to kill the cockroaches. If you are dealing with small appliances or electronics be sure to read their users’ manual to make sure these methods are safe. Heating is probably the most risky solution, since most appliances and electronics react adversely to high temperatures.
Make’m, Bite the Dust! There are substances, called desiccants, that literally dry out any item or animal that contacts them directly. Roaches have a waxy, protective coating on the outside of their bodies which prevents moisture loss. Desiccants kill cockroaches by destroying this waxy layer and effectively turning these roaches into “Roach Mummys”. The three most effective desiccants for cockroach control are diatomaceous earth, silica aerogel and boric acid. Never dust the inside of your electronic equipment. Dusts can be spread behind, alongside or under suspect or infested devices.
Grab the Spray Can. Pesticide sprays can be effective when an infestation is minimal, but with roaches, the situation can fast become a nightmare. Never spray any liquid product into your electronic devices or appliances. It’s a surefire way to ruin what you are trying to protect and you may even start a fire. The same advice goes for spraying anything into an electrical outlet.
They’re everywhere! Termites are active across the state of California, from Redding to San Francisco, down to Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego.
Bothsubterranean and drywood termites are well-known for damaging homes in California. And combined with all the lesser known species, they are responsible for millions of dollars in damage each year. Dampwood termites are also common in California. But, this species is less likely to damage structures than subterranean and drywood termites.
Formosan termites, a type of subterranean termite, which are rare in Southern California, were first identified in La Mesa (San Diego County), California, in 1992 and their numbers have been increasing ever since.
In general, termites swarm on a warm day following a rainy spell. Swarms also have a tendency to occur during the winter in heated buildings. The following is a list of swarming habits of California’s most common termite species.
The formosan termite, in San Diego County, typically swarms from May to September. They always occur in the early evening and on days during which the daytime temperature exceeds 88°F (31.1°C). Thereafter, smaller swarms may take place periodically as suitable conditons occur.
The western drywood termte, swarms during the summer rainy season, from July to September. This termite swarms at dusk, after a rain.
The Nevada dampwood termite swarms in the spring at higher elevations, and in summer and early fall in coastal areas. Swarms often take place before sunset.
In states like California where termites are extremely active and widespread, it’s essential to maintain an effective termite prevention and control program. If you own a home in California, talk to your termite control expertabout methods to help protect your home from termite infestations and damage.
Don’t be fooled, the “termite season” is a myth. Once termites get into your home, they are active, 24/7, all year long, feeding on and damaging wood members with one objective in mind, increasing the size of their colony.
Interesting termite facts:
Termites damage approximately 600,000 homes in the U.S. each year.
U.S. residents spend an estimated $5 billion annually to control termites and repair termite damage.
Homeowners will spend,on average, $3,000 to repair the damage termites wreck upon their homes.
States with the heaviest termite activity include: Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, the eastern part of Texas and most of California. Homes in these areas have the greatest risk for termite damage.
Damage caused by termites in the U.S. is greater than that of fires, storms, and floods combined.
Your Homeowner’s Insurance does NOT cover termite damage.
While a very real threat to wooden structures, termites are also beneficial.Their ability to digest cellulose helps them recycle the nutrient base of the planet.
Even sun worshiping, Southern Californians like the aroma, romantic ambiance and the warmth that a fire in a fireplace brings to their homes during cool, damp, fall and winter evenings. Although some enjoy the atmosphere of an electric fireplace, nothing beats a real wood fire.
Be aware! Anytime you bring materials from the great outdoors into your home, you may be importing hitchhikers. Firewood, pine cones, seedpods and other natural items often host insects and arthropods. The majority, of these pests don’t pose a real threat to your home, furnishings or family, but it’s nice to avoid the unexpected fright and frustration tha their presence can elicit.
Firewood insects usually belong to one of two groups:
those that actively feed on wood and
those only seeking shelter.
Here are some creatures that you might run into and some tips for keeping them out of your home.
Beetles are the most common group of insects found within firewood. Wood borers often attack dead or dying trees and are in the wood when it is cut. Often, the first indication of beetle activity is the presences of a powdery dust or frass coming from holes on the wood surface. Adult beetles may also be seen on or around the firewood. Longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae), Flathead and metallic wood borers (Buprestidae), Bark and ambrosia beetles (Curculionidae), Powderpost beetles (Bostrichidae) are a few you might run into.
Termites: Termites accidently brought indoors with firewood will not infest structural wood.
Their presence in firewood, piled close to the home, may warrent an inspection for termites.
Ants: Some species of ants- including carpenter ants can be found in wood. There is little chance they will nest in the home, but if wood is brought indoors and warmed up,
the ants can become active and create a nuisance anytime of the year.
Wood Wasps: Species of wood wasps, horntails and other wasp-like insects breed in dead wood.As with most of the insects mentioned here, they cannot re-infest wood or cause damage to a structure.
Spiders, earwigs, wood roaches, sowbugs, crickets and small flies may hide and/or overwinter in firewood. Oh, and don’t forget rats and snakes find woodpiles quite homey too.
Insect invasions of homes from firewood can be reduced by following these simple rules:
Avoid stacking the wood directly on the ground. This will keep the wood from getting too wet and reduce the chances for infestation by termites and ants.
Don’t stack firewood in or against the house or other buildings for long periods of time. Termite or carpenter ant problems can develop and cause more serious problems.
Use the oldest wood first, for it is most likely to be infested. Avoid the tendency to stack new wood on top of old wood.
Cover the wood during the summer and fall. This will keep it drier and exclude some creatures seeking overwintering sites.
Shake, jar, or knock logs together sharply to dislodge insects and brush off any obvious structures such as webbing or cocoons before bringing it inside.
Bring in small amounts of firewood that can be used up in a day or so and keep it stacked in a cool area (e.g., garage or porch) until it is burned. When wood warms up, the creatures in or on it will become active.
Do not treat firewood with insecticides. It is unnecessary and potentially dangerous due to chemical toxins released while burning. Pesticide treated firewood is a “Health Hazard”!
Always obtain your firewood locally. Firewood from other areas could harbor, non-native, invasive pests, and has the potential to create a destructive infestation where you live or camp. Most experts recommend that no firewood be moved more than 50 miles from its origin. If you are planning a camping trip, away from home, don’t bring your own firewood with you. Buy wood from a source near the camping area.
Say hello to one of your oldest relatives, named Protungulatum donnae.
After a six-year study of the mammal family tree, scientists now believe that many mammalian species (people included) originated with a tiny rat-like creature that crawled the Earth tens of millions of years ago.
Fossils of the Protungulatum donnaelook like the best ancestor candidate for the mammal family tree extending back 66 million years, and preserved evidence revealed that the creature weighed around eight ounces, had a long fuzzy tail and ate bugs. Maureen A. O’Leary, anatomist at Stony Brook University, says, “The findings were not a total surprise. But it’s an important discovery because it relies on lots of findings from fossils and molecular data.” [The New York Times]
Researchers reported, the animal had several anatomical characteristics for live births that occur in all placental mammals (creatures that
nourish their young in utero through a placenta) and led to some 5,400 living species, from shrews to elephants, bats to whales, cats to dogs and, not least, humans.
So now it all makes sense, why scientists rely on mice and rats, when researching cures for human ailments or studying human behavior.
Their genetic, biological and behavioral characteristics closely resemble those of humans, and many symptoms of human conditions can be replicated in mice and rats. “Rats and mice are mammals that share many processes with humans and are appropriate for use to answer many research questions,” said Jenny Haliski, a representative for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.
Some examples of human disorders and diseases for which mice and rats are used as models include:
Nationwide, termites cause more than $2.5 billion worth of damage to homes each year. Crawling up into sill plates or foundation posts from damp soil, flying into attics or crawl spaces, these relentless insects tunnel into and eat wood, leaving nothing but paper-thin layers where strong supports used to be. They silently wreck havoc on homes and other structures.
Now scientists have found that besides being home wreckers, termites are also,
Most gold today is produced in large open-pit and deep underground mines. However, small-scale gold mining is still common, especially in third-world countries.
A recent study by Australian scientists found that termites excrete trace deposits of gold. According to The Commonwealth Scientificand Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) a federal government agency for scientific research in Australia, the termites burrow beneath eroded subterranean material, which typically thowarts human attempts to find gold, and ingest and bring the new deposits to the surface. They believe that studying termite nests may lead to less invasive methods of finding gold deposits.
In addition to gold particles being present in the mounds, gold can also be detected in the termites themselves if there is a high concentration of the valuable metal in the vicinity. Apparently metals like gold can build up in the digestive systems of insects, and show up as tiny kidney stone-like lumps. Researchers also believe that termite waste is a “driving force” for how metals get redistributed throughout an ecosystem.
For instance, paleontologists often comb through ant mounds to look for any miniature fossil bones and teeth the insects might have carried back to their nests.
Termites are not specifically selecting gold to bring into their nests. It is a fortunate consequence of their nest building technique and their technique effectively helps exploration companies find mineral rich deposits without expensive drilling.
Australia isn’t the first place that termite mounds have been used to prospect for gold deposits. In fact, civilizations in Africa have been using termite and ant mounds to prospect for gold deposits for hundreds of years and gold isn’t the only mineral discovered either. Copper, nickel and even diamond mines have been discovered by checking out termite mounds.
So, if you’re catching “Gold Fever”, grab your pick and shovel and a metal detector and head out to discover where termites (or ants) may be nesting near you. There may be gold in them there mounds!
Gather round the old campfire or maybe just the family fire pit. It’s Halloween and time for tall tales, urban legends and “True Stories”. Mother Nature provides the best material for horror stories and here are a few tales to get you ready for
“The Scariest Time of The Year”!
Stop! Don’t Lick that Envelope!
This lady was working in a post office in California, one day she licked the envelopes and postage stamps instead of using a sponge.
That very day the lady cut her tongue on the envelope. A week later, she noticed an abnormal swelling of her tongue. She went tothe doctor, and they found nothing wrong. Her tongue was not sore or anything. A couple of days later, her tongue started to swell more, and it began to get really sore, so sore, that she could not eat. She went back to the hospital, and demanded something be done. The doctor, took an x-ray of her tongue, and noticed a lump. He prepared her for minor surgery.
When the doctor cut her tongue open, a live roach crawled out. There were roach eggs on the seal of the envelope. The eggs were able to hatch inside of her tongue because her saliva kept it warm and moist, just perfect for growing roach babies…
This is a true story … Yuck! Anyone remember the Alien movie?
A young woman was sunbathing on the beach and was just about to drop off to sleep, when she felt an insect running along her jawbone and then down her neck. She brushed it away, and thought nothing more of it.
After about a week, she noticed what she thought was a pimple growing and growing. The skin was inflamed and it looked like a blister. Then, one day, she was blow-drying her hair and hit the inflamed spot with her hair dryer. The blistered skin broke open and hundreds of tiny white baby spiders and pus came pouring out of the wound!
It seems that while she was sunbathing, her pores had enlarged enough that a mama spider could deposit her egg sac in one. They incubated under her skin until she smacked herself in the jaw with the hair dryer!
Entomologists at the University of Illinois explained to National Geographic that spiders aren’t built to inject their eggs under the skin. They may be able to plaster them on top of the skin, but that wouldn’t make much sense.
A man was found slumped in an elevator, very much dead with two holes in his neck. The coroner discovers the man died in a state of shock, and he’d lost a lot of blood. However, to everyone’s surprise, there’s no bloodstains, no fingerprints, and no signs of forced entry. Things take another bizarre turn when, one month later, a teenage girl is found dead in the same elevator with two identical puncture wounds in her throat, minus a liter or two of blood. People are starting to think there’s a vampire on the loose. What other explanation makes sense?
The police are getting desperate sothey stake out the apartment, posting a detective and a sergeant inside the elevator. The men ride the lift up and down for hours and hours, which turn into days. On the third day, the elevator suddenly shakes and comes to a halt. The power dies, plunging the men into darkness, which isn’t good news since the sergeant suffers from a mild case of claustrophobia. The two pull out their flashlights, and it’s then they hear the click, click, click on the elevator roof. As their heart rates jump, they realize something big—something alive—is up there, crawling around, and it’s then that they see the hole in the ceiling where a panel has fallen away. The detective shines his light toward the hole and has to fight back sheer terror as he sees a large, hairy head the size of a soft ball, covered with eight shiny eyes, all staring right at him.
The sergeant isn’t quite as calm. Not only does he have claustrophobia, he’s also deathly afraid of spiders. He panics and drops his flashlight, and suddenly the three-foot-long beast springs into the elevator and lands on the sergeant’s face, where it proceeds to sink its jaws into his cheek and suck out blood. The detective is paralyzed for a moment, but then he draws his gun and fires, shooting off one of the spider’s hairy legs. Wounded, the creature rushes past the detective and escapes out the hatch, leaving one more corpse and a traumatized detective. Is the story true? Probably not. But it’s something to think about if you’re ever stuck in an elevator. And heaven forbid that the lights go out!
A family had just purchased a small puppy. They had only had it for a week or so and decided to take it to the beach with them. When they arrived, they found out that they could not take the puppy onto the public beach because of a city ordinance. Instead of traveling back home to leave the puppy or leaving it in a hot car, they left it on its leash… tied to the car.
After a few hours, they came back to the car to discover that someone had stolen their puppy. The leash and collar were still there, tied to the car. They searched all around the parking lot for the puppy. No luck. They did, however, find another scruffy looking dog wandering the lot with no collar. Instead of leaving with no pet, they decided to give the mutt a home.
They brought it home and kept it in the house with them for a week. They then decided to take the dog to the vet to get his shots, etc.
Upon examining the dog, the vet made three discoveries:
Their new pet was not a dog, but a large dock rat.
Their puppy was not missing, but had been eaten by the rat.
Could it be witches, ghosts or goblins? Monsters, Vampires or Space Aliens? No, No, No!
It’s Rats,Bats and Spiders that top the list of the most unwanted and fright inspiring creatures ever created. But with all the disturbing stories and fear provoking encounters, are they really the vile creatures of nightmares or are they being given a bad rap?
Rats are one of those animals that can trigger fears that center around sheer numbers. A group of rats is called a pack, swarm, horde or mischief. Imagine a mischief of rats streaming towards you in a darkened alley; this is the stuff of nightmares. For others, it is the long, snakelike tail that freaks them out, or the seemingly long sharp teeth that line their mouths. Considering their factual and fictional involvement in the painful deaths and disappearances of so many people, it’s understandable that society has a fear of these pests that can carry disease and pestilence. Either way, rodents are seen as harbingers of doom and a carrier of death.
Rats in hstory: During the period from 1664-1666, London was ravaged by theGreat Plague. Wiping out an estimated 100,000 people, which equated to about 20% of the capital’s population at the time, the plague also known as the “Black Death”, was all down to the bites of fleas carried in the hair of black rats. Disastrously, the residents of the city mistakenly thought that the disease was being spread by stray dogs and cats and so set about killing them. Obviously, cats are right above rats in the food chain, so taking out the predators of the vermin only worsened the situation. Interestingly, it was only in the 1890s that it was discovered that rats were the reason why the plague spread so quickly.
Rats in literature: Rats were also central to the plot of a well-known story that warned against going back on your word. The Pied Piper of Hamelinwas a character brought in by the Mayor of the town of Hamelin to help clear an infestation of rats, promising him a healthy reward for the completion of said task. The Pied Piper then played his pipe and the rats followed, happily lured to their deaths in the nearby river. Having completed the job, the Piper returned for his payment, but the Mayor reneged. So, in revenge, the Piper returned and played his pipe again, this time hypnotizing the children of the town. They followed him and, dependent on the version you read, they either disappeared into a cave, never to be seen again or were returned once the Piper had received his fee. Modern motion pictures, likeWillardandBen have raised the rat to new hights of villainy, whereas,
Disney’s American Taleand Ratatouille have made them into loveable folk heroes.Considering rats can be purchased in just about any pet store these days, maybe rats have caught a rap they just don’t deserve.
Bats have become the stuff of nightmares because of their nocturnal habits and ability to navigate in the dark, and because of their weird appearance as they resemble both animal and bird at the same time. Bats, through history, have been associated with deities, supernatural forces and the occult. In the mythologies of differing cultures, they symbolize both good and evil, life and death.
The most well-known and fear-inspiring is the“Vampire Bat”,belonging to the subfamily, Desmodontinae.
It is a parasitic species that drinks the blood of other animals including domesticated animals such as cows, horses, and pigs. No, it does not drink human blood! But like the vampire of legend, it sits on its’ prey, bites, licks blood from the wound and the prey never feels a thing.
The common vampire bat is found in the tropics of Mexico, Central and South America and are the only mammals that feed entirely on blood.
Over the centuries their fear inspiring, blood sucking reputation has spilled over onto other bat species that might look as scary but have more benign insect based diets.
Bats in History: But which came first, the Vampire or the Bat? It’s the Vampire, whose first appearance was made in the 11th century and gave rise to the medieval, bloodsucking monster. Whereas, bats originally come from the Americas and were discovered some 400 years after the appearance of the “Vampire”. One theory suggests that the Slavic word for vampire comes from the Turikic word for an evil, supernatural being, Ubyr or witch. The word Upir as a term for vampire is found, for the first time in written form, in 1047 in a letter to a Novtorodian prince referring to him as “Upir Lichyi” or Wicked Vampire.
Bats in Literature: The list of folklore concerning bats is endless, and even Shakespeare got in on the act. In his famous play Macbeth, he had his three witches adding “wool of bat” to their steaming cauldron, and in The Tempest (Act I, Scene 2) he had Caliban place a curse on his master Prospero, which included the line:
“All the charms of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!”
Perhaps the most influential source for popularizing contemporary fear of bats was the fictional bestselling book, “Dracula” (written by the Irish author Bram (Abraham) Stoker (1847-1912) and first published in 1897). In it, he personalized the characteristics of the Vampire bat into what are now the traditional scary, and oddly romantic, blood sucking Vampire legends. Greatly inspiring the imaginations of other writers; his book led to a whole genre of stories and films.
Spiders were one of early man’s top, fear provoking creatures, way before humans crawled out of caves to hunt wooly mammoths. In fact, the fear of spiders, Arachnophobia, could be a product of human evolution, according tonew research out of Columbia University. Spiders presented such a great danger to humans during our early evolutionary stages that a fear of the species became part of our DNA.
However, there are other theories that have been put forth to explain human fear of spiders. Plymouth University Psychology professor, Jon May, suggests that it is their angular legs, dark colors and unpredictable movements that make arachnids so abhorrent to humans. It’s also possible that this fear is learned, as children are much more likely to become arachnophobic if they see parents or siblings reacting to the creatures fearfully. But regardless of which reason offers the correct explanation, we can all probably agree: spiders can be pretty creepy.
Spiders in History: As an ancient and powerful symbol found around the world, spiders have always provoked a wide variety of emotions in people: fear, disgust, panic, and sometimes curiosity and appreciation. This broad range of reactions has influenced origin myths, legends, art, literature, music, architecture, and technology throughout history.
In an ancient Greek legend, the world’s first spider was born from the pride of a woman, named , Arachne, which is where the name Arachnid comes from. North American indigenous cultures have often portrayed spiders as creators, helpers, and wisdom keepers. Egyptian mythology tells of the goddess Neith– a spinner and weaver of destiny – and associates her with the spider. Ancient Chinese folk culture celebrates spiders. They are thought to bring happiness in the morning, and wealth in the evening. They see spiders as lucky creatures, and “happy insects”. In Japan the Spider Princess,a mythological spider figure called Jorogumo, is able to transform into a seductive woman who entraps traveling samurai.
Spiders in Literature: Many folktales warn of the dangerous traits associated with spiders, such as ensnaring webs, lies and deceits, lethal venoms, silent attacks, and creeping terror. The spider gained an evil reputation in the 1842 Biedermeier novella by Jeremias Gotthelf, The Black Spider. In this tale, the spider symbolizes evil works and shows the moral consequences of making a pact with the devil.
The 1952 children’s novel Charlotte’s Webwritten by E. B. White, is notable for its portrayal of the spider in a positive light, as a heroine rather than an object of fear. More recently, giant spiders have been featured in books such as the 1998 fantasy novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secretsby J.K. Rowling, where the giant spider Aragog is a supporting character and pet of grounds keeper, Hagrid.
In graphic novels, spiders are often adopted by superheroes or villains as their symbols or alter egos due to the arachnid’s strengths and weaknesses. One of the most notable characters in comic book history is the Marvel comic book hero, Spider-Man.
Spiders have been present for many decades both in film and on television. The spider web is used as a prop to adorn dark passageways, into the the unknown. Horror films, featuring the spider, include, the 1955 movie, Tarantula, which exploits America’s fear of not only spiders but atomic radiation during the nuclear arms race. Then came the 1975 low-budget cult films, The Giant Spider Invasion, and Kingdom of the Spiders, a 1977 film starring William Shatner, depicting the consequence of hungry spiders deprived of their natural food supply due to pesticides. The fear of spiders escalates inArachnophobia, a 1990 movie in which spiders multiply in large numbers and reign terror over man.
Have a craving for more info on why spiders creep us out? Paruse these at your leasuire.